Diet & Nutrition

Children 'inherit' parents' emotional eating habits

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A study has found children could be inheriting emotional eating patterns from their parents.
Emotional eating was defined in the International Journal of Eating Disorders as "eating in response to a range of negative emotions … or to cope with a negative effect". It occurs even if we aren't hungry. In adults, emotional eating is associated with a higher body mass index (BMI).
British researchers recently explored emotional eating in a group of children and their parents. To monitor emotional responses, they induced a negative emotion by asking the children to complete a puzzle with a missing piece. They concluded that children of parents who rated themselves as emotional eaters ate more kilojoules from chocolate when exposed to a negative emotion.
These findings suggest that if parents use foods for emotional regulation, their children are more likely to do the same and as a result have a higher consumption of sweet or fatty foods. So what can we do to set a positive example for our children?
Have a healthy attitude to food
It's fine to reach for chocolate from time to time (remember, dark is best) — but just keep it to small amounts and try not to emphasise consumption either.
Have meals together as often as possible
Research suggests that family meals play an important role in promoting healthy dietary intake in children, especially as they get older. Research has shown teenagers who eat meals with their family consume more fruit and vegetables, are less inclined to have extreme weight control behaviours, have better psychological health and less risk of obesity.
Limit junk food
Children need to know that foods with a low nutritional content are not "every day" foods. So items like soft drink, chips, pastries, lollies, cakes and biscuits are "sometimes" foods and should only be consumed on special occasions. It's all about balance. Be careful with this strategy however, because being too restrictive can make a "sometimes" food even more desirable.
Lead by example
By enjoying lots of healthy foods (fruit, vegetables, wholegrains, low-fat dairy, soy, nuts, seeds and legumes) ourselves, we can teach our children how to put good food into their growing bodies and that they'll feel all the better for it.
This information is provided by the Sanitarium Nutrition Service.

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